Recently the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) learned that some taxpayers have concerns about callbacks they are receiving from TAS case advocates requesting personal information. These days it’s understandable for anyone to be anxious about verifying that calls are from employees of a legitimate government agency and not scammers.
So how can you know if a call is really from TAS?
This TAS Tax Tip will help you arm yourself with important information to be able to verify if a call is indeed from a TAS employee and keep your personal information safe.
Step 1: Did you ask for TAS’s help?
The first clue it really is a TAS employee calling boils down to whether or not you requested TAS’s help.
Typically, a taxpayer will initiate contact with TAS by phone or filling out Form 911.
Occasionally though, an IRS employee will refer your inquiry to TAS, if the IRS employee feels it merits TAS’s assistance.
Either way your case gets to TAS, TAS employees must follow very specific procedures when contacting taxpayers. Those are shared below.
Step 2: Understand TAS callback/verification procedures
If you do receive a callback from a TAS employee, whether you requested help directly or your case was referred to TAS, here is some information about what you can expect.
By law, a TAS employee must protect your tax information and only share it once the employee knows you are the taxpayer. Thus, when a TAS employee calls you, the employee must request sufficient information to authenticate your identity before sharing any case-related details. A TAS employee will always identify that the employee is from TAS and provide:
- Job title;
- Office address;
- Office phone number;
- Office hours; and
- Employee’s ten-digit badge number.
If the TAS employee calling will not be the same one working your case, the employee will provide you with the offices address, fax number, and main phone number for where your case will be worked.
After that information is provided, the TAS employee will ask a series of questions, generally related directly to your tax account, to verify it is indeed you with whom the employee is speaking. Some of those questions could include, but are not limited to, asking for the following information:
- Social Security numbers (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers) (Note: TAS employees generally only ask for the last four digits. For taxpayers who are uneasy about sharing this information and concerned about the TAS employee’s legitimacy, you can exchange the last four digits for the first five digits instead.).
- Birth dates for those who were named on the tax return.
- Your tax filing status.
- Prior-year tax return related information.
- Which IRS letters or notices you received.
At this initial contact stage, TAS employees will generally not ask you about bank account information. TAS employees will never ask for your credit card numbers, but may ask for other information, such as your employer’s name and address. TAS employees will not ask for anything that does not directly relate to your tax account. If this does occur, be cautious and verify it is indeed a TAS employee calling by following the steps listed under number Step 3 below.
However, if the IRS’s records indicate your account may involve identity theft, TAS employees may ask for additional documentation to prove you are who you say you are, but generally TAS employees will ask you to provide that information directly to a TAS office address, fax, or a special email provided. You can be sure it is a legitimate TAS email address if it ends in @irs.gov.
After verifying your identity
At this point, after the verification process, the TAS employee may ask you to submit specific documentation to help resolve your IRS case. The information requested will differ, depending on the issue to be resolved. You can be assured all requests for information will be only for information necessary to fix the problem. The TAS employee will confirm the issue(s) of concern and explain why the information is needed before requesting it. For instance, the employee may request a copy of your tax return, proof of mailing, or proof of payment for a lost tax return. Or, if you are experiencing a financial hardship, the employee may request documentation such as a notice of eviction or something similar, again, depending on the circumstances you are experiencing. But that information will always be required to be submitted to an official TAS address, fax, or email account.
Leaving voicemail messages
If a TAS employee cannot get a hold of you by phone, the employee may leave a general voicemail message. When a TAS employee leaves a voicemail, the employee will include similar self-identifying information as listed in Step 2.
If prior permission was received to be able to leave a more detailed message, after determining with a “reasonable belief” the voicemail belongs to the appropriate taxpayer by verifying the greeting, the TAS employee may also:
- Acknowledge a taxpayer’s inquiry and provide a specific date of the inquiry;
- Request a return call;
- Give the name of the person who should return the call; and
- Provide a case file number for the taxpayer to reference when calling the employee back.
Step 3: Verify TAS address, fax numbers, and email addresses
Still concerned that you received a legitimate request from TAS?
You can visit the Contact Us section on the TAS website to verify the address and fax number the TAS employee gave you to submit any requested documentation.
- Scroll to the “Find a local TAS office” section
- Use the drop-down menu to select the correct TAS office location
- Check to see if the mailing address, telephone, and fax numbers match
Additionally, some TAS employees may offer a specific email address that you can use to send in your documentation. You can be sure it is a legitimate TAS email address if it ends in @irs.gov.
As a final option, you can fax requested documentation to your local TAS office listed on our website. Even if the case won’t be worked in that office it will be transferred to the correct TAS office. However, it is important to understand taking this course may delay a resolution of your issue and will take additional time to re-route to the assigned case advocate.
Be aware of current high call volumes
TAS is currently experiencing a high volume of requests for assistance due to COVID-19 effects on IRS tax return processing abilities. As a result, you may experience lengthy wait times while trying to connect with an advocate or while waiting for a return call. We ask for your patience as it may take up to four weeks before we will be able to return your call or reply to your request. We apologize for these delays and are taking steps to reduce hold and response times to better assist you.
More resources and information:
Find additional information on how to report scams here.